How to thrive as a digital talent wherever in the world you are

For the past 4 years, I have been working as a software development consultant, developing mobile apps together with partners and clients all over the world. I’ve lived in Italy, Switzerland, travelled Europe and the US and now I reside in my home country, Turkey.

The latest products we built as a globally distributed team of 4 people got more than 25 million downloads.

Especially after reading Paul Graham’s post on US’s challenge on keeping itself as the technology superpower, I’ve realised once again how digital talent’s value is increasing each day. All sizes of start-ups and companies are hungry for high quality talent and it doesn’t look like the demand is going to end anytime soon.

If you are a digital talent yourself, meaning you’re a programmer or a designer and if you have a local mindset, the first thing you need to do is to change this to be competent. You’re not limited by your own city or country any more.

Here I’ve compiled a couple simple recommendations for you:

  1. Improve your English
    If you’re born outside natively English speaking countries and especially if you are a software developer, the first thing you need to master before diving into learning a new programming language is your ability to communicate in English. English is the technology’s main language and you’ll not go far by looking for resources in your own language. There simply is not enough resource in any software technology in any other language than the English in this world. In addition, you need to improve your communication skills using English. Just understanding StackOverflow answers isn’t enough. If you aren’t able to easily Skype a customer or a team member on the other side of the world speaking English to discuss an issue, you’ll be losing tons of opportunities.
  2. Think Globally
    This might sound cliche but it’s of extreme importance. A high quality programmer or a designer has the potential to sell itself to any source on this planet. If you’re entrepreneurial and want to build your own products, do not limit yourself to your own country’s market only. Explore what other people are building out there. Stop attending local meet-ups that often, watch conferences and tech talks from all over the world. Travel as much as you can and don’t be hesitant to network with foreigners.
  3. Learn New Technologies
    Learn and adapt new technologies that are becoming popular among start-ups in Silicon Valley. Do not get yourself stuck between C# and Java because it’s what your industry is looking for in your country of residence. Learn Node.js, Scala, Rails, Swift, Go. Use Sketch instead of Photoshop.
  4. Try becoming a digital nomad
    If you haven’t settled yet, go work in some other country, get out of your comfort zone for a couple years. You can even become a digital nomad. I think it’s one of the coolest things you can do if you’re in your 20s. NomadList can help.
  5. Work with companies that have a global mindset
    If you really don’t want to or can’t travel, try finding companies with global customers. Improve yourself to become a world citizen. Or maybe, try finding a remote job. Work from co-working spaces, coffee shops, libraries, set-up your own home office. Forget about commuting to work each day for 2 hours. You have a huge advantage to yourself. You have the world’s most location independently doable job. Discipline yourself and you can work from wherever you are. You don’t need an office, or at least, you don’t need to go to the office everyday at the same time. Check out 37Signals’ book Remote and the site WeWorkRemotely further on this issue.
  6. Over-communicate
    Whether you’re going to form up a team in the same location or gonna go fully remote, as a human being who needs other people to grow and proceed, you need to communicate. Set-up such a model that every member of the team is able to reach other easily when needed. Over-communicating won’t hurt. Follow what your co-workers, employees, customers are doing. Also, tech people tend to be more introverts than others. Don’t let anyone break off. Even if you’re in front of your laptop 10 hours a day, you need talk with others. Don’t pull yourself into loneliness.

Lastly, I know many Turkish readers will be reading this. If you like this article, and want to excel not only technically but also personally, I recommend you to introduce yourself either to us, or to the cool companies founded by our friends, VNGRS and Hipo. They are awesome.